How many of you make reminder calls to your patients the day before an appointment? No doubt you do this because you want to ensure they remember to come in; cancellations are expensive both as lost revenue and increased staff time used to backfill the appointment. But have you considered that calls to the patient actually present an opportunity to lose business? That’s one of the conclusions found by this 2020 study at nih.gov: Evaluating the Impact of Patient No-Shows on Service Quality
The study found that day-before reminder calls actually increased cancellations, though providers at least had enough lead-time to backfill the appointment. Unfortunately, the study also found that reminder calls had little to no impact on no-show rates. Given the proliferation of digital appointment books, I suspect most people depend on their mobile device reminders and even prefer them to receiving a phone call. But most technologies in medicine today still require a manual process to get a reminder (call or text) into the digital appointment book.
What else did the study find? While there is an advantage to being slightly overbooked, patients expect doctors to run on time, and overbooking doesn’t necessarily save money, as more staff or longer hours are required.
Apparently, the introduction of self-scheduling showed more promise than some of the other approaches, but smaller organizations were often reluctant to implement such solutions due to cost and implementation time.
The last notable item from the study was that the longer the lead time between scheduling and the appointment, the more likely a patient was to cancel. Eight weeks was the tipping point. Related to this was the time slot of the appointment. People were more likely to attend appointments that worked with their availability.